The American

List five books (with authors) you have read that piqued your curiosity. Discuss an idea from one of these works that interests you.

The American, Henry James

Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway

A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson

The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown

In The American, Christopher Newman, an American expatriate in France in the late 19th century, describes his assimilation into Parisian culture. Newman is a self-made man who contrasts sharply with his elite Parisian counterparts, who pride themselves on their heritage and aristocratic lineage. The text’s predominant theme is the clash of two cultures. During my junior year, as an American Englishman in Spain, this book struck a chord. Newman’s adaptation to a new way of life reflects my own journey in developing my own identity.

The entire narrative taps into the idea of acculturation - the absorption of an adapted lifestyle while still retaining one’s initial cultural identity and character. I have come to know that although I will not fully assimilate, the environment that surrounds me shapes me, and each new experience offers me an opportunity to develop myself further.

Newman is exposed to a completely new way of life. By the end of the book (spoiler alert) he finds his place in French culture, though he also realizes he’ll never become completely Parisian....

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